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When I was a child, Momma tried desperately to teach me hula. She was a great dancer and felt that her oldest child, her firstborn daughter, should carry on the family tradition. Well, the family tradition had to wait. I was four. I had Barbies, and the plastic diva and me had plans to go on a chicken hunt in the garden with manly-man Ken. I had no interest in hula, no interest in anything other than chasing those big fat birds through the plumerias and rows of corn in our L.A. County home in Covina.

When I started junior high, I began to notice that the boys had this fixed image of Hawai'ian girls. We were island princesses, were the equivalent of that plastic diva I so loved when I was a little girl, and just as smart, too! They were in for a shock. I had a brain, and a mouth, and when the two worked together those buggahs nevah know what happened. It was as if Pele herself had arisen from her heaving and heat-spewing pit just long enough to show those little Southern California bozos that we Island titas and titas in training were far more than hula dancing bimbos. We had more up front than in between the ears! No more was the image of this grunting and giggling brainless beach bimbo. It had been replaced by a proud and sincere keiki o ka'aina. Talk about shocked ... I was! I couldn't believe that I was so angered by these boys who had labeled me the way that the mariners had labeled the women of ancient ancestry. No way were my parents selling me to anyone, and no, I wasn't about to sell out to their ideals of who I should be. Momma took notice of this, too, and quickly signed me up for formal hula lessons with her friend, Maile.

Hula with Maile lasted a little over a year. Then we were sent to a lady named Luana. I stayed with Luana until I was forced between graduating high school or learning more hula. Well, seeing as how my father was a teacher, we all know what happened, right?

It was okay that I had to forgo any more formal hula lessons. I continued to learn from all my aunties, both blood and calabash kind, and I became quite good at it. During hula lessons and high school, there was a girl named Lori. She and I were friends and remained so through the years. Several years later I see Lori at my cousin's bebe shower. Lori's checkin' out my cousin, Chris. One thing led to another, they fell in love. Soon my beautiful little nephew, Kawika, was born. He calls me Titi ... so what's this got to do with hula being on the brain? Okay, okay...cool yo' jets, yeah? Aye-yah!

My mom guys cater lu'aus, and they knew that Lori was a GREAT hula dancer, so they asked her to choreograph the lu'au shows, which she did happily. "Eh cuz," she said one day, "you like help me wit da show?" Of course I would. I jumped at the chance. Lu'aus and parties and dancing all da time! Auwe!

Our halau meets every Wednesday night. I call it "Church Night," for it is where my children are taught the lessons we learn to love, share and be with one another. They are taught lessons of Aloha and the traditions of the culture. They have calabash aunties, uncles and cousins, we are all related in heart and soul only. That's where it counts, the Aloha spirit, in the heart and in the soul. There are quite a few of us. There are our 'bebe's" Ka'ele and Valerie, who are the highlight in all of our shows. There are my babysistah Napua and Elaine and Cindy, our Tahitian dancing sistahs. They don't have any Hawai'ian blood, at least I don't think, but they are all heart and soul. There's our "Pocho Princess," Leah, who likes being called Nohea. She's as silly as ever, but when it comes to hula she is serious. She knows that there is to be a certain amount of reverence to the dance. My sistah-in-law, Marie, is learning the fineries of being considered an auntie . There's Kisha, my cousin, and Tressie, one local girl from the 'aina who just happened upon us like a blessing that we asked for and were surprised to get. We get two new girls, too, Jessica and Charmel.

And then there's Lori and I, the two who one day thought," Maybe it'll work." and it did. Here we are, not just dancing, but bringing our knowledge of aloha and sharing it through the dance. I work in Lori's office as a file clerk. I like the work, but I think that I was hired not just to do the mass amounts of filing that she has, but to actively have part in the halau. I helped her start it. I guess she feels that no one better can understand her crazy obsession with hula other than me. I was there when she first started formal lessons, and was there the day that she found out that her calling was not behind that desk. That was just her job. Her calling was to be the best Hawai'ian she could be, and to do so by sharing her abilities through the dance. I don't want to toot my own horn, but man, we are good. We are good because Lori and I teach one thing above all else; that Aloha is all, it is there and to be shared.. We are good simply because aloha is part of our souls, put there by years of training by our island born parents, aunties and uncles, both real and calabash.

"Thursday Hawai'ians" is what we were once called, because Thursdays are when the halau would meet for rehearsals and class. Last time I checked, we were all Hawai'ians and Hawai'ian at heart each and everyday of the week, even on Sundays!


About Author

Mapuana was born and raised in Los Angeles instilled with aloha by island born parents.

I dance hula, and am a freelance writer and artist. I have two keikis, Kahaku, 7, and Maile, 3. I dance and help my cousin Lori Goodness-Soares, make da girls "tow da line" at our hula halau, Halau Hula Ohina O Mea Nani, which is located in Upland, CA.

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